I found this book buried in one of my high school teachers’ bookshelves (my love of reading was well known; if one of my teachers had a book collection in their classroom, I was usually allowed access by the end of the first semester). What a lucky find for me!

Crompton tackles the Arthurian legends from the point of view of the Lady of the Lake’s daughter, Niviene. Much like Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon, this book takes on a more pagan and feminist viewpoint in its retelling of Camelot’s rise and fall.

Niviene, being small and secretive like most Fae, skirts along the shadows of the main Arthurian stories, only stepping into the spotlight towards the end. In the beginning, she lives on the wooded isle of Avalon with her mother and brother (a changeling who becomes the warrior Lancelot). As she runs through the woods, she meets and is seduced by a young Arthur. The resulting child soon dies, and Niviene gives up her broken heart for powerful magic. From there she trains with Merlin and is brought to Camelot.

Throughout this book, the themes of sacrifice and trade are dominant. Niviene trades her heart (and with it, the ability to feel love, joy, and sorrow) for magical power. Lancelot trades his Fae magic away to become a great human warrior and later goes mad. The price of power is often displayed as being too high, for, when Niviene gives in to love again, she is stripped of her magic just in time for Camelot’s fall and watches Merlin fade and Arthur die. This brings the question of what is more important – the ability to love others or the power to protect them.

Crompton’s poetic style of writing and vivid detail is spellbinding. At 300 or so pages, I found it to be entirely too short (I honestly remember it being shorter til I went to double-check). I suppose I should add that it helps if you’re already familiar with Arthurian legends – tackling this book without any sort of spectrum throws many of the character relationships out of whack.

Anyways, I have many fond memories of this book – it got me through many a math class after all 😉 . I highly recommend it to any Camelot lover!

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